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Spark induced flow in quiescent air

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posted on 07.05.2021, 18:39 by Bhavini Singh

Nanosecond spark plasma actuators provide an opportunity to reduce pollutants by promoting efficient combustion in engines or provide targeted, tunable, flow control over vehicles, due to their ability to influence flow and combustion through multiple mechanisms. The plasma actuators can be physically unobtrusive, can be turned on and off and their low duty cycle, large bandwidth, and light weight make them more appealing than other control approaches. One method by which these plasma actuators interact with the environment is by inducing a complex local flow field and in order, to design scalable, high frequency actuators effectively, it is necessary to first understand the flow induced by a single spark discharge. Most experimental analysis on the flow induced by spark discharges has been restricted to qualitative descriptions of the flow field, primarily due to the difficulties associated with measuring such a transient and highly complex flow with sufficient spatiotemporal resolution. Quantitative, experimental characterization of the flow induced by a spark discharge remains lacking.

A spark discharge produces a shock wave and a hot gas kernel with a complex flow field following the shock. In this work, combined experimental and theoretical characterization of the spark induced flow is performed through a series of high spatiotemporal resolution measurements of the density and velocity fields and reduced-order modeling. The work investigates the mechanisms driving the cooling and vorticity generation in spark induced flow and the 3D nature of the flow field. Planar (2D-3C) and volumetric (3D-3C) velocity measurements are taken using stereoscopic particle image velocimetry (SPIV) and tomographic PIV, respectively. Density measurements are taken using background oriented schlieren (BOS) and high speed schlieren imaging is used to capture the shock wave induced by the spark.

The work shows that spark plasma discharges induce vortex rings whose vorticity is likely generated due to baroclinic torque arising from the non-uniform strength of the induced shock wave. The hot gas kernel cools in two stages: an initially fast cooling regime, followed by a slower cooling process. Reduced order analytical models are developed to describe the cooling observed in the fast regime and the role of the vortex rings in the entrainment of cold ambient gas and the cooling of the hot gas kernel. The results show that the vortex rings entrain ambient gas and drive cooling in the fast, convective regime, cooling approximately 50% of the hot gas within the first millisecond of the induced flow. An increase in the electrical energy deposited in the spark gap increases the shock strength and curvature and increases the vortex ring strength, thereby increasing the cooling rate and expansion of the hot gas kernel. The volumetric velocity measurements capture one of the two induced vortex rings and provide a framework for the improvements needed in future tomographic PIV experiments of the spark induced flow field, necessary in assessing the 3D nature of the induced vortex rings.

The results of this work provide the first set of quantitative, experimental data on flow induced by nanosecond spark discharges that can be used for validation of computational fluid dynamics (CFD) simulations. The results demonstrate that spark plasmas induce vortex ring-driven mixing flows and the results on mixing and cooling of the hot gas kernel can be extended to any passive scalars present in the flow field as well as inform pulsation frequencies and actuator designs for flow and combustion control. The results from the reduced order modeling can inform future studies and applications of nanosecond spark discharges and can be extended to a variety of other types of plasma discharges like laser sparks, long duration sparks and surface discharges with similar induced flow fields.


Nanosecond Repetitively Pulsed (NRP) Plasmas: Relationship Between Induced Flow and Plasma Characteristics at Atmospheric Pressure

Fusion Energy Sciences

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Degree Type

Doctor of Philosophy


Aeronautics and Astronautics

Campus location

West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Sally P. M Bane

Additional Committee Member 2

Pavlos P. Vlachos

Additional Committee Member 3

Alexey Shashurin

Additional Committee Member 4

Sergey O. Macheret

Additional Committee Member 5

Gregory A. Blaisdell